As an individual, there are many things that you can do around your home to protect the water quality of our lakes and streams

Protecting Groundwater and Surface Water Quality

  • Become familiar with your watershed. Know where the rain that runs off your land goes. Surf your watershed at the Environmental Protection Agency website



  • Reduce the size of your lawn by planting native plants or rain gardens. Native plants require less maintenance since they are adapted to the environment and they add beauty and wildlife habitat in all seasons. Rain gardens have the same qualities as well as the benefit of allowing stormwater to seep naturally into the ground. The Blue Thumb program of the Rice Creek Watershed District has an informative resource page about cost-share assistance from local governments.

  • Reduce the amount of fertilizer and other lawn chemicals you use. These chemicals can become a part of stormwater runoff and end up in our lakes and streams.

  • Create a buffer zone along the shoreline of lakes, rivers and wetlands. Plants and trees reduce shoreline erosion, act as filters for lawn chemicals, provide wildlife habitat, and improve the aesthetic value of your property. The Minnesota Shoreland Management Resource Guide has information about sustainable shoreland practices to improve management of Minnesota’s lakes and rivers.


  • Do not wash unused pharmaceuticals down your sink or toilet. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency directs people to keep the medication in the original container and mark out personal information. Add water to dissolve pills or add flour to liquids, seal the container with tape, and place in it your trash. Pharmaceuticals that are washed down the drain are not treated by wastewater treatment facilities and are being found in our rivers where it is believed they are harming fish. See the fact sheet about pharmaceutical disposal on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s website

  • Maintain your septic system properly and have an old system replaced. Septic systems are a major contributor to the pollution of rivers, lakes and ground water in Minnesota. Information about maintaining septic systems can be found on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s website

Interesting Facts About Ensuring Groundwater Sustainability

  • Click here to find out how you can save 20 gallons of water per day and join the 20-Gallon Challenge.

  • Buy water-efficient appliances and look for ways you can shut off the tap when you are not using the water.

  • The American Water Works Association estimates that retro-fitting an older home with more-efficient toilets, showerheads, washing machines and dishwashers can save about 34 gallons per person per day – cutting indoor water use in half.


  • Toilets installed prior to 1994 may use five to seven gallons of water per flush; newer toilets are limited to 1.6 gallons per flush.


  • Older-model washing machines and dishwashers use up to 15 gallons and 14 gallons, respectively, per load. Newer machines are up to twice as efficient.


  • Regularly check your toilet for leaks; quickly fix any dripping faucet. Five drips per second from a faucet – the kind of thin, but steady, stream of water we have all seen from time to time – wastes 15,000 gallons of water in a year, according to the American Water Works Association.


  • If you spend 20 minutes washing your car and you leave the hose running, you can use up to 100 gallons of water. Use a bucket and a sponge; turn the hose on only for rinsing. Wash your car on grass, rather than concrete or asphalt, to prevent water and detergent from running down storm drains and into streams.


  • Take shorter showers, turn off the faucet while you shave and brush your teeth, don’t let the water run while you wash dishes in the sink, and keep a pitcher of water in the refrigerator so you won’t have to let the tap run to get cold water.


  • If you already have relatively new plumbing fixtures and appliances, the biggest thing you can do to save water and ensure sustainability is to limit your summertime lawn watering. The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that half of all the water put on lawns is wasted through over-watering and evaporation – a staggering 1.5 billion gallons a day.

If you are a farmer, and especially if you irrigate your crops, you need to be aware that agriculture accounts for 80 percent of the water consumed in the United States. Here are some tips:
  • Practice conservation tillage and plant cover crops. The added plant matter on the soil will reduce evaporation.

  • Don’t use unlined ditches to transport irrigation water.

  • Plant drought-tolerant forage crops.

Groundwater Sustainability Tips:
  • If you are building a new home or laying new sod, be sure there is at least 6 inches of topsoil beneath the sod.
  • Test your soil and consider adding compost as organic material. It will dramatically increase the absorption of water.
  • Follow the US Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense guidelines for landscaping. Limit the amount of turf you plant by considering native plants which need less water.
  • Don’t over-water. Most lawns need only 1 inch of water each week, either from rain or from irrigation. Step on your grass – if it springs back, it doesn’t need watering.
  • Water early in the morning to cut losses to evaporation. The middle of the day is the worst time.
  • Cut grass no shorter than 2 inches which will promote deeper roots that require less water.